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Monday, June 23, 2014

Plant a Pocket of Prairie, written by Phyllis Root and illustrated by Betsy Bowen. University of Minnesota Press, 2014. $14.95 ages 6 and up

"Plant a pocket of prairie
in your backyard
or boulevard
or boxes on a balcony.

If you plant a pocket
of prairie,
who might come?"

It's Nonfiction Monday, and I have a wonderful new book to share with you. I know that you will enjoy it!

Much of the prairie habitat that once covered vast parts of the land is gone. Phyllis Root wants her young readers to know that it does not have to be that way. With interest and action, we can help to create small prairie environments in our own backyards and neighborhoods. It takes knowing what to plant, where to plant, how to do it, and why it's important.

On each double page spread of this fine nonfiction book, we are invited to try our hand at revitalizing a lost landscape;

"Plant foxglove beardtongue.
A ruby-throated hummingbird
might hover and sip and thrum.
If that hummingbird sips and zips
looking for something more to eat..."

On it goes, with more and more ideas for attracting animals and insects that will eventually show us what we have been missing. There is much to absorb as Ms. Root explores the dynamics of prairie life, and our role in assuring its existence. She ends her informative and accessible words with hope:

"If you plant a pocket of prairie,
and I plant a pocket of prairie,
and everyone we know plants
a pocket of prairie,
and everyone they know plants
a pocket of prairie,
one day we may look out and see

the prairie coming home."

In end matter, the author includes a map of Minnesota that shows clearly how the prairie landscape there has changed over time, a guide to planting your own pocket of prairie, further information about each of the animals and plants mentioned in the text, as well as information for those wanting to see some of the native prairie land that still exists.

The beautiful, clear woodcuts that Betsy Bowen creates to bring the prairie to life are worthy of being in an art gallery. She fills the pages with the wonder of the open prairie. You can almost hear the birdsong, and feel the gentle breeze that blows across the pages.

Inspiring and informative, this book will find a place with schools who are designing their own garden spaces, and for families who want to make a difference in their neighborhoods. It takes new learning, working together and patience; in the end, it will truly be worth the effort.

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